Our mystery service desk manager writer has revealed herself as Emma Lander; an IT manager turned copywriter. Here she explains how gamification can be used to improve motivation and productivity.

We all know that working on the service desk is not the most glamourous of roles within IT. Dealing with the negativity of user complaints when IT systems breakdown, hardware fails, or tickets aren’t turned around quickly enough can become monotonous and disheartening if there’s nothing around to lighten the load.

High staff turnover can be related to this negativity and monotony which can be responsible for limiting job satisfaction and increasing the risk of burnout.

If you’re struggling to motivate your staff why not bring your service desk to life using gamification?

What is gamification?
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary gamification is ‘the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation’.

Gamification, when used on your service desk, combines gaming and work.

Sounds fun, right?

Well it really can be and there’s no reason why your service desk can’t benefit. Gamification has the potential to:

• Motivate staff

• Provide a way to measure performance

• Ignite healthy competition between analysts

• Give you a way to recognise and reward great employees

Games always have goals and giving someone a goal helps them to feel like they’re working towards something.

Think of it like this:

Your process: Your service desk analysts log tickets for customers

Your process + gamification: Your service desk analysts log tickets for customers. Each time a new ticket is logged the analyst responsible earns points.
The analysts work to achieve a certain amount of points each week/month. If they hit their target they get a reward.

You can attach gamification to any of your processes and it doesn’t need to be limited to earning points. You could also:

• Create challenges

• Add level ups by completing challenges

• Create leaderboards

• Build in long-term quests

• Win badges

• Create a virtual trophy cabinet on your team page to display awards won

How can I make it work?
Make sure you understand the below points before you try to implement this on your desk. After all, you want this to be a success the first time you launch it.

• Understand your team. I mean truly get to know them. What do they like about work, what don’t they like, what motivates them?
Gamification needs to suit your whole team so the challenges and rewards need to be tailored to suit them all.

• Set the rules. Ensure everyone knows what’s involved. Gamification will not work if your staff don’t clearly know how to play the game. What are the challenges? What do they get when they complete a challenge? How do they know how they compare to others? What will the data be used for? Make everything clear to avoid confusion and ensure there cannot be arguments later down the line. It goes without saying that gamification needs to be fair.

• Start small. Don’t go all in on this without testing the waters first. Try some small challenges to begin with, see what works and what doesn’t. Then, once you’re more confident with what’s getting your staff motivated, build on this.
Good gamification takes time to get right and isn’t something to implement overnight.

• Involve your team in the design. During your next team meeting start floating the idea. This is a great way to see how your staff will react and will get the ball rolling in your quest to understand what motivates them and how this is going to work. The more involvement they have the more likely they are to want to participate.

• Ensure rewards meet the requirements of what motivates your staff along with what your company can afford to shell out. There’s no point promising an extra day off work if you’re under-resourced and struggling.
A free lunch, team member of the month status, a coffee waiting for them on their next morning shift. There are loads of things you can offer that will get people wanting to play the game.

• Ensure the games benefit you too. Gamification isn’t just about rewarding employees, it needs to suit management too. The idea here is to make work fun, sure, but there needs to be an end goal for you too.
Use gamification to measure staff performance. Give them targets to hit, the harder they try to win the game the more work gets done. Win-win.

There really is no one size fits all here. Gamification depends on the type of staff you have, the processes in place that you can add gaming to and what rewards you can realistically dish out.

A lot of the time employees simply need recognition of the work they’re doing.

Make sure they know how much you appreciate them and you’ll have a team of happy workers. Don’t wait for annual appraisals, make it regular and use gamification to aid this.

What are the downsides?
There’s always a downside isn’t there? And it was sounding so good up until now.

Gamification can present issues but as long as you make yourself aware of what these might be you can be prepared to prevent them.

• Disruptor Players
It is possible that you will have disruptor players on your team. Players who game the system in order to win quick and keep on winning. Keep an eye out for these.
You can use this to your advantage to learn where the loopholes are and close them. You can always make it harder for the cheats but you can never fully prevent it. If you really have issues with this consider writing something into your rules of the game to dissuade people from trying.

• Bribery
To some it can feel like bribery. ‘Do this and get a reward for doing so’. This can lead to negativity around the idea and it won’t get off to the great start you anticipated.
To avoid this be clear on what you are doing and why. Gamification is meant to be about instilling some fun into your processes not making people feel like they can’t do their job without constant rewards.

• Boredom
If you make the rewards too easy to get you run the risk of boring people early on. Once they’re switched off to the idea it’s going to be much harder to get them back on board. Ensure your staff have to work hard for rewards and celebrate them when they’re achieved. If they’re winning something every other day the novelty factor is going to wear off pretty quick.

• Incomplete measurements
Some people might not make it onto the leaderboard. What if you have a couple of lightening speed analysts who stack up points so quickly that others don’t get a look in?
Someone might not be on the leaderboard for ticket stats but they might be receiving exceptional customer service ratings. If you’re rewarding team members for smashing targets remember the elements that are harder to measure too.
You want gamification to encourage a team environment where staff are motivating each other and engaging in friendly competition.
Customer service is just as important as tackling ticket numbers – make sure your games reflect this.

Think about all of the above carefully, plan this out and don’t rush into gamification, this isn’t a quick-win. This is a long term strategy to get your staff motivated, engaged, and happy to participate.

It’s a way for you to be able to measure staff performance and ensure they’re recognised for their commitment to the job.

It’s something that you can continue using and evolving as your staff and processes change and mature.

Happy gaming!

Guest post by:

Emma Lander

Copywriter

Emma is a freelance copywriter and blogger for tech companies. Her primary role is to help tech businesses sell themselves and their products. She has worked in the IT industry for a number of years most recently as a service desk manager leading a team of eight analysts for a large UK corporation. She frequently blogs about ITIL, service desks and leadership.

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